My Take on “Trying to be Perfect is Killing Our Teens and We’re to Blame”

Angela Hansen
Founder and Director, American Academy of Strategic Education

Original Article:
Melissa Fenton, author of the blog “Grown and Flown” discusses the recent student suicide that has shed light on the mounting pressure placed on high school students to get accepted to top universities. She wants us to answer for ourselves “Why are we killing our teenagers?”

I too am done making my children miserable. I am all for hard work, determination, and grit, but I am also about happiness, joy, and being balanced individuals. As I look around I notice the inconsistency of our message to our kids about being happy, independent, and respectable people, yet continually force them into educational situations that produce the opposite outcome.
In grade school, we teach our children to share, be honest, and be happy. In junior high, we promote being thoughtful, courteous, and well-rounded. But by the time our kids get into high school, we are shaping them to be self-centered, dishonest, nothing-but-driven, unhappy, single-focused A+ students amped up on drugs to stay even more focused than their peers.
Do you ever step back and ask yourself why
I believe it is because we all naturally want our kids to be happy and successful, however, we sometimes get confused with how happiness and success actually look. We become caught up in what “everyone else” is doing (if your friends jumped off a cliff would you?) without any regard for what is actually best for each individual child. While we are pushing our own educational agenda on our victims we forget to foster the character traits we want our children to emulate: the courage to be different, self-contentment, joy, honesty, thoughtfulness…
While there may be some pros, there are also many cons to the public and private education system today that each parent should be asking if it is right for each child.  Sometimes the bad outweighs the good. And don’t kid yourself into thinking that all that is wrong with education is referring only to public schools. Many private schools are just public schools that cost a lot of money and have prettier wallpaper! (Trust me, I have spent a pretty penny on private school tuition.)
If you’re serious about helping your child become a happy, successful adult who loves to learn and who cares as much about his or her own success as you do, consider helping him/her find the right path toward success that might be different from what you’re currently doing.  If you’re going to give your child an educational opportunity that is uniquely his/her own, it must be flexible, adaptable, and personalized and must not close any opportunity doors for him/her later in life.
Have you ever had a heartfelt conversation with your child about his/her life? I recently asked my son if he really enjoys school and asked him what was and was not working for him.  We talked about where he wants to end up and what he must be willing to do and to give up to get where he wants to be. Most importantly, we discussed that this is his life and that only he can make decisions that will affect him in the long run because eventually, he will be the only one his decisions affect.
I hope that these kinds of conversations become woven into our daily dialogues with our children and that we can bring about real change in our children’s education.

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